Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Tasty Tuesday: BBQ Green Beans

My husband and I both grew up in homes where green beans were a frequently served vegetable. My mom canned her own home grown green beans. In the summer, if I sat down for any reason, a pan of green beans would magically appear in front of me for my snapping pleasure. Small price to pay for home canned green beans year 'round!

We still eat green beans frequently, but over time I have collected a few recipes that give a new twist to the rather tired looking store bought canned beans. The following recipe is from an old church cookbook. I have been making this for over 25 years and they are always well received. The recipe can be tripled and heated in a slow cooker for a large crowd or a pot luck event.

BBQ Green Beans

2 14.5 oz cans green beans, drained
1 can tomato soup
1/2 cup brown sugar
6 bacon slices, diced
1/4 cup onion, diced

Brown diced bacon & onion in skillet, drain well.

Place green beans, brown sugar, & tomato soup in casserole dish and mix together.

Stir in bacon & onion.  Bake at 325 degrees for 1 hour.

For pot luck I triple the first 3 ingredients, use 1 pkg of bacon, and 1 whole onion. I place into a slow cooker and cook until heated through.

I know this sounds very different, but it really is a delicious recipe. Give it a try.

Bon appetit! ~Marla

Monday, November 12, 2012

Angels in Diguise

I’ve seen and met angels wearing the disguise
 of ordinary people living ordinary lives.
- Tracy Chapman

Angels in disguise. I have seen them, have you? Just the other day, at the airport, a kind employee bumped me to First Class seating. I had not asked about different seating, and when he handed me my new boarding pass and commented that it was a better seat, I still did not understand it was in the First Class area. What a wonderful, unexpected gift! Today I want to share a particularly wonderful story from someone close to me. It is about her angel in disguise.

Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.
 ~Hebrews 13:2 NIV

It was a particularly difficult morning. Things were piling up one upon the other. Finances had been an issue for awhile now, but today was especially bad. A cashed check that was to be held for awhile had sent the checking account into a tailspin. Checks began bouncing right and left, and the fees began stacking up. She owed money to the kids school and money on a student loan. The charges from the bounced checks had people calling her as well. How was she to pay any of these things when the money was simply not there? Topping it off were the family medical issues, including the surgery of a loved one that very day. How could one person be expected to bear so much?

As she ended a cell phone call from yet another person demanding payment, she began to give in to the despair. Standing in the hallway of her children's school, her world seemed ready to crumble. "Are you alright?", the voice asked. Looking up she saw the face of another parent. "Yes, I'm fine.", she answered, her face belying the truth. "No, really, I want to know if you are alright.", the woman said. And so the words began to pour out, along with the tears. She shared everything with this woman she barely knew, and accepted her arms to comfort her as well. Her story told, the woman asked a question, "What can I do to help?" She began to refuse the kind woman's offer, but the woman was persistent. "No, I am serious, I want to help. I can help you.", she stated. "My checkbook is at home. Let's go there and discuss this.", said the woman.

 Upon arriving at the kind woman's home, she was asked a question, "How much do you need?" Surprised, she said, "I don't know when I can pay you back." "Who said anything about paying me back?", asked the woman. "Name a figure, don't be afraid. What do you need to get back on your feet?" Stunned, she replied, "About $2000." Without blinking an eye the woman began to write the check. In explanation the woman simply said, "I was feeling sorry for myself this morning. My husband has a long commute to work, and I was resenting that. Meeting you and hearing your problems put my own into perspective. It helped me feel better."

You never know when or where your angel will appear, or when you can be an angel for someone else. In Him ~Marla

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Tater Tot Casserole, Updated

This is not my first post for Tater Tot Casserole, but this is an updated version that fits my family a little better. This recipe is based on the Duggar's Tater Tot Casserole. With a few tweaks I have made it my own, a little higher in lean protein, and a little lower in carbs.

Tater Tot Casserole

2 lbs lean ground beef &/or ground turkey
Nature's Seasons Seasoning Salt
2 lbs frozen tater tots
1 cup shredded cheese
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 can evaporated milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Remove tater tots from freezer. Brown and season meat to taste. Drain any fat and place meat in the bottom of an ungreased 9x13 baking dish. 

Sprinkle with shredded cheese, variety of your choice, I like a 3 cheese variety. Cover evenly with tater tots.

 Mix soups and milk in a bowl and pour evenly over tater tots. Bake uncovered in a 350 degree oven for 1 hour. Serves 8-10.

Enjoy! ~Marla

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Life in the Bipolar Lanes: The Seeds of Guilt

Guilt. It is a powerful emotion isn't it? At least in most people. I am often amazed by the lack of guilt some people seem to feel. You know the ones...people sitting stoically in a courtroom as a verdict is read that proclaims them guilty of murder, child abuse, or some other heinous act. And yet, there they sit, seemingly without any remorse. It boggles the mind. 

I myself have the opposite problem. I can bring up memories over 45 years old and feel the guilt as if it was only yesterday. That is a lifetime of guilt, and it is a heavy burden to bear. A lot of time and therapy went into vanquishing some of this guilt. Some I have simply learned to keep at bay...most of the time. 

My first experience with guilt occurred at the tender age of 3 years old. Yes, I have memories of my life at this early age. Remember, memories are kept because they hold significance for us. The significance of these early memories are for the most part because they focus on my grandfather, Frank. Frank was actually my step-grandfather, but I do not believe I even knew that at the time. To me he was simply Grandpa Frank, a wonderfully kind man who loved and doted on me and gave me Dentyne gum when I came to visit. And the visits were often. See, Grandma & Grandpa Frank lived in a trailer next door to us, so I saw them at least once a day, and usually much more often.

My memories of Grandpa Frank are memories I have clung tightly to over the years. His smiling face, things he gave me, the time he took his teeth out for me! He was the perfect Grandpa. Unfortunately I only had 3 years with Grandpa Frank. During that time my Grandma was a shadowy background figure in my memories. Grandpa Frank took center stage. Grandpa Frank's death would change all of that.

It was fall, and my mother told me that Grandma wanted to talk to me. Grandma took me outside to the front yard. She asked if I had noticed that Grandpa Frank had been gone for a few days. She then proceeded to tell me that Grandpa Frank was never coming back. He had died. The remainder of the conversation was to be seared into my 3 year old brain for the rest of my life. Me, "Why did Grandpa have to die?" Grandma, "I don't know, probably because you were so mean to him."


Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Tasty Tuesday: The Smells of Home

What makes a house feel like a home? For me it is the aroma. I have heard of people comment on how they love the smell of Pine Sol or bleach, denoting a freshly cleaned home. Other people enjoy the fragrance of fresh cut flowers or floral candles or room fresheners. My favorite aroma for a home are the fall smells. Apples baking in pies, nutmeg and cinnamon simmering in a pot of cider on the stove, a pumpkin pie and banana bread cooling on the counter, wood burning in the fireplace. When I experience these aromas I am transported...suddenly the house feels cozy, inviting, homey. 

During the fall the baker in me comes out to play. It cools off enough to use the oven again, and the spices of fall beckon. One thing I do enjoy about showing my home in the fall is the ability to add to that homey feeling for the potential buyer by putting out breads and having a big pot of spiced cider on the stove top. It is so welcoming. 

Here is a recipe to get you started on that fall baking, a yummy apple crisp from Betty Crocker! Bon appetit! ~Marla

French Apple Dessert

Streusel Topping
cup Original Bisquick® mix
cup chopped nuts
cup packed brown sugar
tablespoons firm butter or margarine
cups thinly sliced peeled tart apples (4 to 6 medium)
cup granulated sugar
cup Original Bisquick® mix
cup milk
tablespoons butter or margarine, softened
1 1/4
teaspoons ground cinnamon
teaspoon ground nutmeg
Ice cream or whipped cream, if desired

  • 1Heat oven to 350°F. Grease 13x9-inch (3-quart) glass baking dish with shortening or cooking spray. In small bowl, mix 1 cup Bisquick mix, the nuts and brown sugar. Cut in 3 tablespoons firm butter with fork or pastry blender until mixture is crumbly; set aside.
  • 2Spread apples in baking dish. In medium bowl, stir remaining filling ingredients until blended. Pour over apples. Sprinkle with topping.
  • 3Bake about 55 minutes or until knife inserted in center comes out clean; cool slightly, about 30 minutes. Serve warm if desired with ice cream.

Monday, October 15, 2012


I know this is shocking...but occasionally I throw little pity parties for myself. Woe is me, life is not following my perfectly choreographed plans. Really! I have this all figured out God! Can't you see how perfect my plans are? Why must I suffer so? And then God lets me in on a little secret...my life is amazing! My problems are nothing compared to so many around me! My plans do not enrich my life one little bit!

So, what to do when you are focusing way too much on your on life? When you  forget how very blessed you are. My anxiety level was slowly climbing up and up. What could I do to take my mind off myself and start focusing more on others, and Him? Pray. Simple enough. Devote that time and energy towards something positive.

Prayer is a wonderful communion with God for someone of faith. A chance to turn your eyes upward instead of inward. A chance to reach out to someone hurting or afraid. A chance to make a difference in the lives of others. You can touch the life of someone you may never meet, and they may never know of you...but you can reach out in prayer.

Prayer doesn't have to be eloquent, or even grammatically correct. God hears your prayers with His heart, not His ears. He feels your prayers...and they bless Him. Wow! He covets our prayers...what an amazing concept!

Let my prayer be counted as incense before You, and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice! ~Psalm 141:2 ESV

In Him ~Marla

Friday, September 28, 2012

Praising Him in the Hallway

When do you struggle most? What circumstances cause you the most stress? When is your faith, be it in God or fellow man, tested the most? Ask five people this question and you are likely to get five very different answers. For some it is during times of illness or loss. For some it is during financial difficulty. For some, oddly enough, it is when life is on a high, when suddenly they feel no need to rely on God or others. For me, it is in the hallway. 

The hallway. One door has closed, another yet to be opened, and so I wait. The hallway has no windows. It is easy to lose ones sense of direction in the hallway. With no sunlight, day and night can seem to blur and become one on the hallway. When the doors remain closed it is easy to imagine the hallway has no end. 

Yet at some point a door will open. I will walk through and be able to look back and see the hallway for what it really was. A passage of the perfect length to lead me to my next destination. Until then...I will praise Him in the Hallway.

In Him ~Marla

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Life in the Bipolar Lanes: Early Childhood Memories

My Family

Early childhood memories. The wispy bits and pieces of our 2, 3, or 4 year old selves that continue to live on inside us. We all have them to one extent or another. For some they are easily recalled, others find them elusive or nonexistent. Often they are attached to events of significance. Events that were significant to the child we once were, not necessarily significant to those around us. These memories mold us in incredible ways, at times shaping us into the person we will become…or at least the person we perceive ourselves to be.

I learned something important in therapy as an adult. The past can indeed hold the key to the present. My childhood memories were skeletons that needed to come out of the closet and be addressed before healing and change could ever occur. As I write about my journey I will need to talk about my family. I want to do this honestly. If you are a family member you may recognize yourself in my memories. Please understand these are memories through a child’s eyes, not an adult’s. Additionally, some of my extended family may learn some unpleasant facts about someone they looked up to and loved. Just because this woman was unlovely to me does not mean she was a bad person, but understanding her role in how I perceived myself was a key part of learning to cope with those feelings and overcome them. Writing this will take time. It is difficult for me to write about without bringing up old feelings. Something I do not want to do on a daily basis. Please be patient with me.

There are many, many, children who have had childhoods more difficult and unhappy than my own. Not all these people end up with a mental illness. I do not believe my childhood led me to become bipolar. What I do believe, is that it exacerbated certain symptoms and made coping more difficult.  Anxiety has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember, and that very definitely had its roots in my early childhood. Guilt and feelings of worthlessness were early companions as well. These were set in place as early as four years old, and not addressed until many years thereafter. By that time the negative reel in my head had been looping over and over for a very long time.

You are too shy, you are mean, you are a liar, you are lazy, you are stupid, everything is your fault, you only think of yourself, you are afraid of everything, you are unlovable, you are selfish, you just want attention, you are ugly, you have no self control, why can’t you be like “them.”  You are a bad person.


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Tasty Tuesday: Pinterest Cooking

Do you Pin? If not you are missing out on one of the most addictive internet activities available. I love Pinterest, it totally satisfies my urge to rip out magazine pages and save them. What? You've never done that? I confess, if I am scanning a magazine and come across an idea or recipe that I want to try...rip, out it comes. Pinterest is much the same, but with no mess. Instead everything is neatly organized into categories of your own choosing. Heaven!

But I digress. This post is specifically about some of the great recipes I have tried from my Pinterest collection. Enjoy! And to get you in the mood, here is a great remix in honor of the great Julia Childs 100th birthday.http://youtu.be/80ZrUI7RNfI

OK, while not technically a recipe, this is by far the most amazing thing I have discovered through Pinterest. I will never boil an egg again! I now bake my hard cooked eggs! So much easier! 325 degrees for 25-30 minutes...and they peel easier as well.http://pinterest.com/pin/283797213988836056/

Need a great recipe for Chicken Enchiladas? This one is definitely a winner! 

I found a great Beef Stroganoff recipe...the beef is super tender.

One of the cooler recipes I have discovered is for Artisan style bread, baked in a dutch oven. I am not normally a bread maker...but this is super easy, and came out perfect on my very first try!

Hopefully this gives you a few ideas for dinner, as well as what Pinterest has to offer. 

Bon App├ętit ~Marla

Monday, August 13, 2012

Simply Overwhelmed

I haven't been writing much lately as I have been too overwhelmed to sit and put my thoughts into coherent words. I realize there are many people who thrive on stress; I am not one of them. Too much stress has the opposite effect on me...I simply shut down. That has been the last few weeks of my life. All the hoopla of getting the house on the market and beginning a search for a new home has made it difficult for me to function. When it gets to be too much a nap seems the best solution to me. Bipolar and Anxiety Disorders tend to go hand in hand...and it is not a happy partnership.

So today I am just reaching out for a little help from my friends. If you have a moment to spare, please say a little prayer for me. I would really like to have this entire move behind me and perhaps begin to function a little better again.


Monday, July 23, 2012

Life in the Bipolar Lanes: Part 1

It is hard to talk about your mental health issues in a public forum. Want to know about my back issues? No problem, I can comfortably talk about that. Want to know how I am coping with Diabetes? I'd be glad to share with you. Want to talk about what it is like to live with a mental illness. No way, much too uncomfortable. But that is in fact what I feel called to do. I am going to step out on faith here and share my story. I will try to share as much detail as possible, beginning today with an overview. 

Though our society is far more accepting of mental illness than it was 50 years ago, it still carries a stigma. Everything from crazy to lazy gets thrown in there. I write this to be an advocate for others who struggle with mental illness. I want people to understand the profound struggle that it can be to appear "normal" when "normal" is the last thing you feel. Additionally my hope is that others will not wait as long as I did to seek help.

My first inklings of problems came as a child. By the time I was 10 years old I was seeing a child psychologist. At that young age I already had profound feelings of worthlessness, guilt, and self hate. I don't have any idea if my 5th grade classmates knew where I went when I was dismissed from class for my appointment every week. But in my mind I was sure they did. I did not know of anyone else, adult or child, who saw a psychologist. Instead of helping, I felt even more an outsider looking in at all the "normal" kids. 

By my early twenties I had changed my primary doctor and hid my mental illness with lies. Though by this time the Bipolar symptoms were full blown, I had learned to live a lie pretty well. Probably only family were aware of my issues, and much of it was put down to simply having a temper. What they saw as anger or being energetic or talkative was actually a manic state being played out. And when the depression hit? I was simply moping or being "sensitive." If any of them suspected mental illness they kept it to themselves.

By my thirties I realized I had to get some help. My illness was affecting my parenting in a big way, and my rages were scaring even myself. My doctor was more than happy to prescribe Zoloft for PMS symptoms. Once again the lie to save face...after all PMS was all the rage, and my issues were worse at that time of the month. For some reason I had this incredible need to look as if I had my act together. Though how many saw through the charade I don't know.

I was in my forties when it all came crashing down around me. I no longer had children or parents to care for. Nothing to stay strong for. Finally the bottom dropped out. The visit to the ER was not pleasant, but for the first time in my life I told someone everything. No lies, no excuses. I was broken.


Friday, July 20, 2012


Yes, my title is in caps on purpose. I felt shouting the question was a way to get my point across. We are an angry people. You need only watch today's news to see this. Invariably the people who commit such heinous acts are angry. They may not be overtly angry, but the anger is there, sometimes quietly simmering away. Anger in itself is not a bad thing, in fact in some cases it is entirely appropriate. However, more and more it seems that people are angry all the time. 

Case in point...angry Facebook posts. More and more I see posts by people wishing for "karma" to befall their enemies. I wonder about this. They obviously do not worry about their own "karma", yet by wishing ill upon someone else, perhaps they should. Then there are the thinly veiled threats posted in joking way. We wonder why our children bully or experience bullying? Because many adults are still acting out that same behavior, albeit in a less confrontational way. 

We call people names who don't believe as we do, who don't vote as we do, who don't live where we do. We call people intolerant without realizing that the moment that word comes out of our mouth, we become intolerant as well. We judge people instead of showing compassion and understanding. Leave the judging to God, and pray for mercy for those you believe condemned, so you may be spared as well. 

I come from a family with wide ranging beliefs and lifestyles. I have friends very different from myself. I do not agree with their opinions all the time. What I do try to do is love them regardless of our differences and show them respect.

If you have Facebook or other social media site that you post on, I have a challenge for you. Look at your posts for the last week. What percentage of your posts are positive or uplifting? What percentage are negative and meant to tear others down? I am doing this myself. Just a little something to think about.